Content marketing is arguably the most effective and cheapest ways to promote your business and grow your presence.
Even though it has been around for the past decade or so, it is still a dominant marketing method and has yet to lose its steam.
Many companies big and small have already jumped onto the content marketing bandwagon to boost their presence and their bottom line.
But content marketing is more than churning out thousand-word articles, beautiful charts or filming exciting videos week after week.
In fact, it takes a certain degree of expertise to achieve content marketing success.
Because anyone can produce web content. But not everyone knows how to deliver the right kind of content that their key audience wants to consume.
Over the years as a digital marketing expert, I’ve learned that there are a few common mistakes that newbie marketers make when they try their hand in content marketing.
By avoiding these mistakes early on in your content marketing efforts, you can amplify your work without any waste in time or labour and be seen as a formidable authority in your industry.
Here are the pitfalls you should watch out for:
Writing in Passive Voice
In case you don’t know by now, audiences today have extremely tiny attention spans.
This means every content you produce has to be easy to read, scan and simple enough for everyone to understand.
If your article is drab, full of difficult words, and long sentences, your audience is going to lose their interest. They will simply hit ‘back’ and move on to the next piece of article on another site.
One of the easiest (and most overlooked) way to make your articles clear and concise is to write in an active voice.
For example, an active sentence would be “The boy kicked the ball,” while a passive sentence reads “The ball was kicked by the boy.”
The difference may be subtle, but it is highly effective in keeping sentences short and easy to read.
The key is to forget all the things you learn back in grammar school, and write as if you are speaking directly to the reader.
Using complicated language
This is another mistake that newbie marketers are guilty of.
Unless you are writing for a highly-specific audience that is familiar with your niche, using obscure, hard to understand jargon is highly discouraged.
It alienates the readers and makes your content hard to follow, making audience drop off without reading the entire piece of content.
When you are aiming to maximise your content reach, you should always write your content with as many simple terms as possible to appeal to the broadest range of audiences.
One of the best ways to break down and explain complicated ideas in your articles is to use metaphors.
Metaphors are great for explaining unfamiliar things to your audience because they are highly visual, and they exist in our everyday language.
This makes ideas almost immediately understandable for readers and goes a long way in helping you sound more persuasive.
Not publishing often enough
Running an active business blog packed with quality, original, thought leadership-oriented articles should be the number 1 priority in your content marketing strategy.
While most businesses enjoy the idea of owning a blog and the potential organic traffic it brings, most people lack the commitment to dedicate themselves or the resources to produce content frequently.
When your audience sees huge time gaps in between your blog posts, it tells them that your blog is not frequently updated, nor is it fresh.
This can send the wrong signals to your audience and bring an impact on your overall marketing goals.
Luckily, this pitfall is also easy to avoid with some smart time and resource management.
First, you need to start making blogging your top priority in your marketing strategy. That means putting time aside to think of new content ideas, as well as writing them out.
Having a content schedule in place helps you to stick to your deadlines, and see what articles you need to work on each week.
If you don’t have the time nor the skills to produce high-quality blog content, you should consider recruiting help. You can hire an editor to check the quality of your content for you, or even a freelance writer to write a blog post from scratch.
Also, you should always keep a list of blog content topics, so that you will never run out of ideas to write about.
Not knowing your audience
If you don’t know who your audience is, it’s going to be impossibly tough to grow them. Understanding who your content is produced for is the key element to any marketing strategy.
Without knowing your audience, you won’t even know what type of articles you should be publishing on your blog.
And if you’re focusing on the wrong type of content, you’re going to waste time and resources producing content that gives you little to no ROIs.
Do your market research, check out your competitors, monitor social media reactions and comments, and talk to your customers – these are some of the best methods you can do to gain a deeper insight into the minds of your target audience.
Being the same as everyone else
Even though imitation is the highest form of flattery, in content marketing, it usually gets you nowhere.
Audiences today have near limitless access to content at the touch of their fingertips, thanks to Google.
They don’t want just another guide, top 10 list, or free PDF guide. They want content that engages, educates AND entertains them at the same time. It’s content like these that keep people coming back to you for more.
So, don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to producing content. Or better yet, don’t shy away from a bit of controversy and go against the grain.
Being different from your competitors not only puts your brand as an authority capable of individual opinion, but it’s also the surest way to stand out from the crowd and make your audience take notice of your brand.
Ignoring lead generation opportunities
Most novice marketers feel that lead generation is only reserved for sales and promotional portions of their websites.
But this can be a fatal mentality for your business.
Why? Because there is no way to tell if a prospect is ready to be converted, whether it’s into a paying customer, an email subscriber, or sign up for a free trial.
Sometimes, your prospect could already be ready to buy but forgot about it because something significant happened in his life.
And since we don’t know when they are ready, it’s always a good idea to provide CTAs whenever possible.
Always remember to leave one or more CTA links and buttons within your blog content.
Ensure that you have a small email signup form to collect email addresses of your visitors so you can nurture them in the future.
Focusing on Your Company
The critical component to content marketing success lies in providing highly useful and relevant articles and information for your audience.
That’s why you should always be focusing your content on your readers, not your brand or your business.
This requires you to build your content strategy around your audience. You need to know what is the information they are seeking, and helps them in their research throughout the buyer journey.
For example, if you are a software company, don’t just write content that talks about the excellent new features your new accounting app.
Instead, write an article that compares all the different perks and drawbacks of accounting apps currently in the market.
Having a prospect-centric content strategy demonstrates your knowledge and value in your industry, and also establish you as a legitimate source of helpful info.
No content promotion
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, content marketing isn’t just a simple act of writing a piece of content, hit ‘Publish’ and be done for the day.
In fact, you’ve only done the easy part.
The real work comes from promoting your content. That means putting your content in front of your audience both new and existing.
Usually, this is done by sharing your content across various social media, email marketing, forums (such as Reddit and Quora), or even inserting links in your content on other platforms (like Medium or LinkedIn).
Unless your blog post is seen by your target audience, your content marketing strategy won’t work.
This is where your outreach efforts play a role in your content promotion.
Be an active member in online communities such as Facebook Groups or subreddit forums. Invest time and energy in growing your social media followers, such as on Twitter and Facebook.
Outreach activities can take up a lot of time, and the results won’t be immediate. But it will have a snowball effect on your content promotional efforts, allowing you to reach thousands of your audiences and bringing them towards your business.
Not using other media
When we talk about content marketing, most people often associate the idea of blog articles, reports, and PDF books.
But in today’s world, content goes way beyond that.
Charts, photos, infographics, videos, music, and even apps are also content that you can use to reach your audience.
Using alternate media such as these are useful in complementing long chunks of text. They are also useful in creating an omnipresent universe around your audience.
By becoming omnipresent, you increase the exposure of your brand to prospects, and this can have a direct impact on your conversion goals.
Consider repurposing your existing articles into infographics, podcasts or even Youtube videos.
For example, create a PowerPoint deck for your article that highlights the key points, record a video of yourself reading the article as you click through the slides.
Now you’ve got yourself a Youtube video! Now extract the audio and upload it onto any of free audio podcast platforms available, and now you’ve just made your first podcast episode!
You can easily reproduce multiple types of media from a single piece of content. You can either do it on your own if you are confident with your speaking voice.
Or you can outsource this task to a freelance marketing expert to produce them for you.
Using an assorted type of media to build ‘content stack’ can help you maximise your audience reach across Google and social media.
Not interacting with your readers
Most marketers are too busy chasing leads and growing their email lists, but they forgot one crucial factor that can impact conversion rate – audience engagement.
Your blog is a great place to connect with your target audience. It’s also a great platform to start conversations with your readers.
It’s an excellent chance for you as a business owner to step out of your business shoes, shed your corporate skin and become a friend.
Always check the comments that your audience leaves on your blog articles or your Facebook posts.
You can learn a ton of stuff through interacting with your readers. Sometimes, they still have questions because your article did not cover an aspect that concerns them.
Or perhaps they enjoyed your content, and they wish to learn more about something else within your expertise.
You can also gather valuable market research from your readers through their comments. These can help you plan your future marketing content.
When you make your audience feel at home when they are on your blog, you become more than just a business entity; you become a trusted friend.
There you have it
These are some of the most common pitfalls that I observe in content marketing.
Unfortunately, even though you know how to avoid every single mistake, or learn every single thing about the art of content marketing, nothing can replace good old-fashioned hard work and practice.
Write regularly, write daily if you have to. Soon you will be able to pick up and master the strategies and methods to make your content shine.
Or if you feel content writing isn’t really your cup of tea, and you prefer to spend your time focusing on your business, you can always hire a content marketing consultant to plan and produce all the content on your behalf.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.